As a native Californian, moving to the Midwest after over 30 years was quite a shock. One of my friends from high school moved off to Oklahoma, but the rest of my friends had stayed put. Their reactions to my wife and I deciding to move were pretty amusing.
You’re moving to Kansas? On purpose?
Kansas? Like from The Wizard of Oz?
Are you going into the Witness Protection Program?
and the number one question I was asked…
The answer was simpler than many of them could believe: we needed a change and wanted to be closer to our respective families. My dad let us know if we moved he’d move somewhere in the vicinity too, so that made it easy. We sold our house, picked up, and plopped ourselves square in The Heartland.
I noticed differences right off the bat.
Despite the bad reputation this part of the country has for being flat, I found it kind of awesome. Driving through the middle of nowhere, looking off in either direction and seeing nothing but green as far as the eye can see is actually amazing. It’s the Midwest version of standing on the beach, looking out at the ocean.
Since I lived in the High Desert of Southern California I could easily drive to lots of different places, but there in the desert there wasn’t much in the way of greenery or wildlife. We had lizards, scorpions, and black widows. I miss the lizards; the other two, not so much.
Since I’ve lived in the Midwest, I’ve seen lots of animals I had never seen before. Raccoons, opossums, even deer have found their way down my street and into my yard. One time we were driving down a busy street and stopped at a red light. I looked around and didn’t notice as many differences as I did similarities – Best Buy, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Circuit City (R.I.P.), etc.
Maybe this won’t be all that different after all.
Then I turned to my right and there, in a vacant lot next to a convenience store, two wild turkeys went strolling past. Much to one of my friends’ chagrin when I relayed the story, I did not ‘pack my musket and go shoot them.’
I haven’t had much trouble getting used to the cold winters. Deserts get colder than a lot of people realize, and I was no stranger to low temperatures. That being said, I’ve been colder out here than I’ve ever been in my life. Pumping gas at 1am in 12 degree weather stupidly wearing a hoodie instead of a heavy coat.
I’ve also been hotter than I’ve ever been in my life. Here I thought it was just some dumb saying, but it’s true – it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. I could handle triple-digits in the desert pretty easily most of the time. Here I start to bitch in the mid-80’s. When we hit triple digits here I want to die.
I’m still not used to the way people talk out here. It’s mostly little stuff, but a lot of it is still like nails on a chalkboard. For example, there are no bags out here. Only sacks. I hear the word sack and I think of a giant brown paper bag, but out here it covers everything: paper, plastic, even Ziploc bags. Asking for a soda may get you a funny look, as there is only pop. People will refer to a man as an “Ol’ boy.” Instead of saying thank you, people say “I appreciate cha.” And if you say thank you to someone there’s a good chance that instead of you’re welcome they’ll answer you with a simple “Yup.” Not that any of that is so bad, but it still sounds foreign.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. The difference that everyone always asks about.
I swapped earthquakes for tornadoes.
People out here seem to be terrified of earthquakes. I’ve been told on more than one occasion earthquakes are worse, because “you can’t see them comin’.” As a seasoned veteran of probably a dozen or so earthquakes who now lives in tornado alley, I will say this –
I would trade one tornado for a hundred earthquakes. I know what they say. The Big One’s coming, and California’s going to fall off into the ocean! I’ve been hearing that since I was old enough to understand what an earthquake was, and I’ve never seen anything like what happens in a tornado. A big earthquake is bound to happen someday, and it will probably be devastating, but it’s not like there’s an earthquake season.
I’m not trying to crap on the midwest. Almost every place has something to watch out for. The east coast and gulf coast have hurricanes; in addition to earthquakes, California also has wildfires and mudslides. Helping my dad decide what was valuable and what wasn’t as I helped him evacuate his house due to a looming wildfire royally sucked.
Luckily, my friends and family in Oklahoma are OK, no pun intended. Some of my family have had some close calls, and my friend from high school has lost a house once already. But for now I’m just thankful they’re OK, and I’m really thankful we have a secure storm shelter.